Some of my friends wonder why I am not spending my energy following my passion of writing fiction. All I can say is that something happened over the Christmas holidays to make me think I had to write more directly about things happening in our nation and in our world. I’m sure some of my friends have rolled their eyes at the sharpness of my criticism of the Bush administration. With all my mind and heart, I believe that the war in Iraq is wrong and that no battlefield success can make it right. I believe that this administration has exploited fears of terrorism to justify a usurpation of power by the executive branch and an undermining of civil liberties never envisioned by the writers of our Constitution. In the eyes of some, that is enough to consider me a “radical.” I believe that I am a “conservative” in this regard because I believe in our constitutional form of government, with its checks and balances, and guarantees of due process and civil liberties.
I began this blog with the words of Wendell Berry: “The past is our definition. We may strive, with good reason, to escape it, or to escape what is bad in it, but we will escape it only by adding something better to it.” How we add something better to our past has been my focus. I have not sought that “something better” only in political issues: we’ve shared stories of fostering orphaned puppies, coming to terms with to one’s sexuality, loop sound systems, book reviews, and even a new chili recipe.
When I began on December 31, I had no idea how much time the blog would take. The actual writing every day does not take nearly as much time as the research. I could have paid tuition for what I should have remembered from civics and government classes but didn’t and have had to relearn. I’ve depended on the Internet for much of my research for years, but writing a daily blog requires the same veting (sifting through mountains of electronic garbage) of sources, but doing it more quickly. Especially for legislative matters, I have found sources of information I didn’t know existed.
This morning I thought of an ancient Chinese story, called “The Foolish Old Man Who Removed the Mountains.” I realize that the story is not ecologically sound—the image brings to my mind actual scenes of mountains in Appalachia decimated by coal mining—but I hope that doesn’t get in the way of appreciating an old story. This is the way I remember it:
Long, long ago, an old man who lived in northern China was known as the Foolish Old Man of North Mountain. His house faced south and beyond his doorway stood the two great peaks, Taihang and Wangwu, obstructing the way. He called his children, and hoe in had they began to dig up these mountains with great determination. Another greybeard, known as the Wise Old Man, saw them and said derisively, “How silly of you to do this! It is quite impossible for you few to dig up these two huge mountains.”
The Foolish Old Man replied, “When I die, my children will carry on; when they die, there will be my grandchildren, and then their children and grandchildren, and so on to infinity. High as they are, the mountains cannot grow any higher and with every bit we dig, they will be that much lower. Why can’t we clear them away?”
The Heavenly Emperor received a report of what the old man was doing, but he was not afraid of the old man's tenacity. Instead he was moved by the old man’s determination in the face of a seemingly impossible task and decided to help him. The Heavenly Emperor ordered the two sons of Kua’ershi to lift the two mountains on their backs and move them, one east of Shuo and the other south of Yong.
After this colossal feat, there were no more mountains between the Jizhou and Han Rivers and the foolish old man and his family were able to walk straight between them whenever they liked.
I plan to keep on writing the blog. I am grateful for the folks have taken the time to write articles and send information. I would like to have more. Share your stories.